Posts Tagged ‘stewardship’

Barriers to Giving

November 12th, 2014 No comments

Everybody talks about how their church is (or tries to be) friendly. But “friendly” is more than just shaking your hand when you arrive. It encompasses seeing things from your guests’ point of view and asking yourself what they want or expect. A case in point is giving (although, churches should be even more friendly about giving, because guests are probably a tiny fraction of the people who give to your church). From the Lovett and Weems Church Leadership website:

When you design and communicate financial policies, make sure they are done from the perspective of the giver and not simply to satisfy rules. Make sure that readers know your interest is primarily in them and their desire to fulfill their giving goals, not for the convenience of those handling the funds.

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High-Percentage Tithing “Accelerators”

February 9th, 2012 No comments

Here’s an article about some things that are found in Presbyterian churches with a higher-than-average proportion of people who contribute a high percentage of their income to the church.

(Did you get that? These are factors that, when you find them in a church, give you grounds to predict that the church will have a more high-giving contributors than average churches. The article calls these factors “accelerators” but that suggests causation, as if these factors somehow stepped on the tithing gas pedal. From my reading, a better term would be “predictor.”)

Anyway, these “accelerators” are as follows:

  • More conservative worshipers.
  • More people who attend at least weekly.
  • More (i.e., a higher-than-usual proportion of) men.
  • Larger congregations.

It’s interesting to speculate what the connections are (besides statistical anomaly) between these factors and higher giving.

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Financial Status Update

August 30th, 2011 No comments

We were all surprised (and I expect, very pleased) last month, when we learned that Desert Hills had received a large bequest. The gift was all the more surprising because the giver hadn’t been part of our church, except as the widower of a member who passed away in 2009.

What you may not have realized is that, when we received the gift, our church was already operating in the black!

This September marks the end of my fifth year as your pastor. The first four years of my ministry here were largely dominated by our finances. Each year we spent more than we took in. The economic problems our nation began to experience in 2008 only made things worse.

By this time last year, our reserves had dwindled to about $20 thousand. That sounds like a lot of money—at least to me, it does!—but it was only enough to cover our deficit for about about 12-15 months.

Something had to be done. So we did it.

Your leaders on Session approved a budget with deep and painful cuts, mostly in the area of personnel. We reduced the pastor’s take-home pay by about 10% and my total compensation by about $6,000. We eliminated the part-time office administrator position. We built in an unpaid summer furlough for our music director. These cuts were painful, but they put our budget close to balancing.

To close the gap, our leaders asked each of you, the members of our congregation, to increase your giving by at least a dollar a week. And you’ve done it!

Since I don’t look at individual giving records, I can’t say who was and who wasn’t able to increase their giving, but I do see the totals. Collectively, our congregational giving this year has consistently been more generous than it was last year. During January to August of 2011, we have received about 8% more than we did that same portion of 2010.

The result of this effort—cutting expenses and increased giving—has meant that, for the first time in my five years at Desert Hills, we are now running a modest surplus. We are on track to end the year in the black, even after we fill the music positions we are currently advertising. We will have achieved this without drawing a dime from our reserves, and without reducing our traditional level of support for ministries of compassion through our mission partners.

To achieve our goal, two things still need to happen: first, we need to continue to hold the line on expenses. Second, we are counting on you to continue to give generously. We aren’t asking you to stretch any further—if you can, that’s great; more money’s always welcome—but we are asking you to keep giving at your current level so we finish the year in the black.

I am so grateful that we did not receive this bequest last year, or earlier this year. Instead, God gave us time to embark together on this scary journey of faithful spending and giving. God held back the bequest just long enough for us to see that we already had within us the financial resources to function as a church even in a time of economic hardship.

This fifth year here at Desert Hills has been satisfying to me because we turned the corner on our finances. I want to thank each of you for all your work and sacrifice to make it happen. I especially want to thank our lay leaders, developing our financial plan and refining it along the way.

Now, finally, we can lift our heads up from the ledger books and begin to think and pray and listen together to what God has in store for our church in the years ahead.

(Cross-posted at the Desert Hills Presbyterian Church website.)

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“A little help!”

August 4th, 2010 1 comment

The NRSV has a strangely bland translation of Romans 15:24:

when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.

The bland part is where it says “to be sent on.” That’s a unfairly wooden translation of the Greek word propempto. Literally, the word means just that: pempto (“I send”) plus pro- (“forth”). But what it really means is to help someone go forth.

To send someone that way sometimes means to accompany them. That’s what it means in Acts 21:5, where Luke writes that “all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city,” and Acts 20:38, when the Ephesian elders brought Paul to the ship.

But more typically, especially in the Epistles, to send someone forth means to provide them with material support for their journey. This is particularly clear in Titus 3:13, which tells the recipients to send on Zenas the Lawyer and Apollos, “and see that they lack nothing.” BDAG offers this definition: “to assist someone in making a journey, send on one’s way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc.”

ESV is better, if still a little awkward:

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

NIV is better still:

I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.

The problem with the NRSV’s bland translation is it disguises what Paul is doing: asking for money. In Romans 15:24, Paul is saying he wants the Roman church to help him get to Spain. In 1 Corinthians 16:6, he says he doesn’t even know yet where he’ll be going.

By disguising what Paul is saying, this failure-to-translate hides the implicit teaching, that this is what churches do: provide support to people who are doing ministry beyond their immediate neighborhood. And worse, it fails to teach people (e.g., pastors and elders) to ask for such support, the way Paul used to.

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What Do You Want From Life?

July 28th, 2010 No comments

“What do you want from life?”

Everyone answers that question differently. What I mean is this. Everyone wants to be happy. There are things we want to accomplish. We want financial security. We want to be in relationships with other people. But we’re all unique, so we all want these different things in different proportions.

Proverbs 14:4 goes like this:

“If there are no oxen the crib is clean, /
But a rich harvest comes through the strength of the ox.”

We Americans have to pause a moment to decode it, because so few of us are involved in farming. The point, however, is clear: the things we want most generally can’t be had by themselves. They come when we do other things that move us toward our real goals.

Read more…

Does anyone still have a Hi-8 camcorder?

June 7th, 2010 No comments

Does anyone has a Hi-8 camcorder I could borrow?

I’ve got some old tapes I’d like to convert to DVD. Our Hi-8 camcorder is busted, so there’s no way to play the tapes back, and that’s step one of any conversion.

I don’t want to pay a service to convert them. I’d rather borrow a camcorder and do it myself. I’d even buy one, if the price weren’t too horrible.

If you can help, comment on this posting. (You’ll have to set up an account, but then you can comment on any posting.)

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